Indian players walk back after knocking out Australia for 200 runs in their second innings
Indian players walk back after knocking out Australia for 200 runs in their second innings
AFP

Melbourne

It was sheer team work and the perfect leadership which enabled India to sign off the year 2020 on a winning note under an inspirational Ajinkya Rahane, who went on to crush Australia by eight wickets in the second Test to level the four-match series 1-1 here on Tuesday.

The target of 70 was never a big one but for a team that was bowled out for its all-time lowest score of 36 only 10 days back, one can't fault them if that played at the back of their minds.

Youngster Shubman Gill;s unbeaten 35 and skipper Rahane (27) who scored the winning runs together knocked off the runs in 15.5 overs to complete the victory which was similar to the one achieved ten year ago in Durban against South Africa.

This was after the quartet comprising Jasprit Bumrah (2-54), debutant Mohammed Siraj (3-37) and old war horse Ravichandran Ashwin (2-71) and no forgetting Ravindra Jadeja who signed off with two wickets showed maniacal consistency over a period of 100 overs on the flattest of decks, where extra bounce became their go-to weapon.

"The talk was all about showing attitude, intent and character. One hour took the game away from us in Adelaide, but we still have a lot to learn," Rahane said in the post-match presentation.

Indian teams, since the turn of the new millennium, have had some memorable overseas victories but when the backdrop and context of this Test at the iconic MCG is recorded for posterity, Rahane and his magnificent bowling unit will find more than an honourable mention in the pages of history.

"Really proud of all the players, credit to our debutants Gill and Siraj. The way they showed character was amazing," Rahane said.

The Indian teams of yore used to lose stomach for a good scrap after humiliating defeats but not this one. It stood out for the manner of its comeback in the absence of a genius called Virat Kohli and a magician in Mohammed Shami.

Australia captain Tim Paine had nothing to offer as an explanation for why his side could not capitalise on the big absences.

"Very disappointed, played poor cricket, sloppy cricket. Let's not take anything away from India, they forced us to make mistakes," he said.

India were also hamstrung by Umesh Yadav's calf muscle injury mid-match which reduced a five-pronged bowling attack to four men.

But in the last three and half days, Rahane, first with his hundred and then with solid leadership, showed what Kohli meant when he spoke about 'New India'.

Along with skills, it was the mental fortitude that shone through as the team didn't take too much time to bury the ghosts of Adelaide and clear the cobwebs in their minds getting Australia all-out for 195 and 200 in two innings.

For someone, whose Test match place was being questioned during the last 18 months, Rahane was certainly 'Captain Cool' in a new avatar, baboozling the opposition with his tactical acumen and marshalling of resources.

On the first day, it was about assessing the moisture on the surface and giving Ashwin a go before debutant Siraj in the first hour of the match, all the while keeping that leg gully in business for Steve Smith.

It worked wonderfully well and then he understood pretty quickly that Siraj, with his hit-the-deck bowling, could work wonders with the semi-new or old kookaburra when the seam would flatten.

While batting, he was like that bandmaster, who knew how to conduct his orchestra whether it was young Gill or the seasoned Ravindra Jadeja.

Rahane rates his hundred in a winning cause at Lord's six years back as his best effort but for fans, the innings at Melbourne will always be way more precious.

The victory was unquestionable but again it was Rahane, a former Karate 10th Dan black belt, decided to guide Gill, doing his apprentice in Test cricket.

Australia 1st Innings: 195

India 1st Innings 326

Australia 2nd Innings: (Overnight 133-6)

C Green c Jadeja b M Siraj 45

P Cummins c Agarwal b Bumrah 22

M Starc not out 14

N Lyon c Pant b M Siraj 3

J Hazlewood b Ashwin 10

Extras: (lb-5, nb-3) 8

TOTAL: (103.1 overs) 200

FoW: 1-4, 2-42, 3-71, 4-98, 5-98, 6-99, 7-156, 8-177, 9-185, 10-200

BOWLING: J Bumrah 27-6-54-2, U Yadav 3.3-0-5-1, M Siraj 21.3-4-37-3, R Ashwin 37.1-6-71-2, R Jadeja 14-5-28-2

Indian 2nd Innings

M Agarwal c Paine b Starc 5

S Gill not out 35

C Pujara c Green b Cummins 3

A Rahane not out 27

TOTAL: (15.5 overs) 70-2

FoW: 1-16, 2-19

BOWLING: M Starc 4-0-20-1, P Cummins 5-0-22-1, J Hazlewood 3-1-14-0, N Lyon 2.5-0-5-0

M Labuschagne 1-0-9-0

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